The Drowned Boy

drownedboyYou really should at least be reading, if not collecting, the works of Karin Fossum. Not only is she the queen of Scandinavian detective fiction (or Nordic noir) she is one of the prime novelists working today in the mystery genre.

She’s innovative and experimental (BROKEN), she’s unafraid to confront and explore and understand evil (I CAN SEE IN THE DARK) and she has this emotional stance that’s very sympathetic to both perpetrators and victims, which strikes home in the books of hers which have been translated by Charlotte Barslund, but other translators seem to have a bit of trouble with her prose.

Read more »

The Legend of Caleb York

calebyorkA Mickey Spillane Western? When did the creator of the phenomenally popular hard-boiled Mike Hammer PI novels trade his fedora for a Stetson and venture from the mean streets of the big city to the dusty trails of the legendary American West?

Well, as Max Allan Collins, the late Spillane’s literary partner and executor explains in his introductory note, THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK began as one of several unproduced screenplays Spillane wrote before his death in 2006. This particular work was written for Spillane’s close friend and Hollywood legend, John Wayne. But Wayne’s production company, Batjac, closed down before the script could be produced. Years later Collins found the screenplay among the many finished and unfinished works in Spillane’s files and adapted it into the resulting western novel.

Read more »

We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy

wedontneedroadsI can think of a few people who may hate reading Caseen Gaines’ history of the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy. These people are Eric Stoltz (fired from the lead role of Marty McFly after filming began), Crispin Glover (more or less blackballed from the sequels), Jeffrey Weissman (Glover’s ill-treated replacement) and Cheryl Wheeler (a stuntwoman who nearly died during a questionably safe stunt in PART II).

Everyone else, go for it! While inessential in terms of claiming a cineaste’s shelf space, WE DON’T NEED ROADS is a must-own for anyone with a deep fondness for the classic time-travel comedy, especially if you were among those audiences wowed upon its release in the summer of 1985. That’s the power of love.

Read more »

American Neo-Noir: The Movie Never Ends

americanneonoirAuthors of more books on film noir than you have pairs of underwear, Alain Silver and James Ursini now turn their attention to AMERICAN NEO-NOIR in their latest trade-paperback collaboration for Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.

Following the close of the “classic noir” period with Orson Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL in 1958, neo-noir is loosely defined as the next step of the genre — one that embraces the motions of and comments upon its preceding movement. Silver and Ursini weave their way through its history, right up to today, nimbly moving from one title to the next with sheer unpredictability.

Read more »

Go Down Hard

godownhardCraig Faustus Buck’s first full-length novel, GO DOWN HARD, combines classic hard-boiled and noir crime fiction elements into a thoroughly contemporary Southern California-based murder mystery. It’s not only an impressive debut novel for this prolific author of journalism, scripts, and short stories, but also one of the finest and most entertaining crime novels of the year,

The protagonist, Nob Brown, is a divorced, thirty-something former LAPD cop who barely pays his rent writing sensational articles for the tabloids. Then Gloria Lopes, an LAPD detective and Nob’s “friend with benefits,” tries to cheer Nob up by slipping him the confidential case file of an unsolved murder.

Read more »

Avoidable Contact

avoidablecontactKate Reilly is back in AVOIDABLE CONTACT, her third thrilling adventure featuring auto racing and murder written by Tammy Kaehler. The author started this series with DEAD MAN’S SWITCH, and while intriguing, it was unpolished, a bit rough. The text greatly improved with the riveting BRAKING POINTS, and now we can see Kaehler and her characters in full bloom, in this powerful and gripping book.

Reilly is a sports car racer at the top level. And the author’s genius move here is to have the entire book revolve around one race, the granddaddy on the schedule, the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race. That construct, much like mysteries set on a moving train or in a house cut off from civilization by the storm, focuses the action, narrows the detective capabilities, and tends to sharpen the storyline.

Read more »

Killer Year: Stories to Die For…

killeryearMMPHey, did you hear the one about the debut novelist? Probably not, in today’s crowded marketplace, and that’s the whole idea behind KILLER YEAR: STORIES TO DIE FOR … , a 2008 anthology of “new” crime writers finally available in a mass-market edition. It’s edited by already established thriller writer Lee Child, creator of the Jack Reacher series.

He’s got 13 authors he’d like to introduce you do, most of whom just had his or her first novel come out in 2007. It’s kinda like how every year, the filthy rich hold a debutant ball to introduce their daughters to the world. Except here, there isn’t a bunch of horse-faces.

Read more »

The Forgotten Room

forgottenroomDr. Jeremy Logan returns in Lincoln Child’s latest solo novel, THE FORGOTTEN ROOM. Child again combines elements of scientific technology and the supernatural into a completely entertaining thriller with a pleasing, almost old school ambiance.
Logan, a university history professor with a particular interest in enigmas first introduced in Child’s THE THIRD GATE, is still a professor but now a renowned “enigmalogist” whose knowledge and skills are in demand around the world. One day he receives an urgent summons from the Lux, one of America’s oldest and most respected think tanks located in a huge, renovated mansion on the coast of Rhode Island.

Read more »

Moriarty Returns a Letter

moriartyletterReggie Heath, the London barrister who happens to have his office at 221B Baker Street, and thus must take care of the voluminous correspondence that is still, to this day, addressed to the fictional Mr. Sherlock Holmes, is back in the fourth Baker Street Mystery, MORIARTY RETURNS A LETTER.

This time, Heath is about to go on a kind of pre-marriage engagement honeymoon with the love of his life, glamorous actress Laura Rankin. The public cannot leave Ms. Rankin alone and unfortunately, one of the tabloids has even published the itinerary of their engagement trip. And this is a problem.

Read more »

5 Film Books to Dive into This June

unbuttoningamericaLike fellow best-sellers-turned-films CATCH-22 and THE STEPFORD WIVES, PEYTON PLACE has entered pop culture in a way that its title has become a household term whose definition is known even to those who haven’t consumed the source material. Grace Metalious’ 1956 novel, however, is the only one to ignite an all-out scandal for its frankness of postwar life in the U.S.: one marked by sex, rape, murder and more sex. What it did — and undid — is chronicled by Ardis Cameron in UNBUTTONING AMERICA: A BIOGRAPHY OF PEYTON PLACE. “To read PEYTON PLACE today is to ponder the sexual quicksand on which women (and men) walked,” Cameron writes, and while she does touch on the Oscar-nominated movie, the long-running TV series and the multitude of sequels, the focus is on Metalious book and its role in bringing suburbia’s secrets out from under the well-Hoovered rugs and ushering in feminism’s second wave. A decade in the making that draws upon decades of letters and other documents, Cameron’s Cornell University Press hardcover release is the best kind of history lesson: shocking, entertaining, enlightening, vital.

classichorrorlitSo writes Ron Backer in the introduction to his latest book from McFarland, CLASSIC HORROR FILMS AND THE LITERATURE THAT INSPIRED THEM, “I was surprised to learn how many classic horror films were based on works of literature. Who knew?” Um … everyone? I’ll cut the guy some slack, though, because the end result is a pretty enjoyable work of quasi-encyclopedic film studies, examining the “true symbiotic relationship in experiencing the same tale of horror in two different forms of art.” To that end, Backer covers 43 novels and short stories, and 62 subsequent movies across 40 thorough, judiciously illustrated chapters. From Universal to Hammer, your usual monstrous suspects are here, but to his credit, he also scopes out some obscurities, including Clements Ripley’s BLACK MOON, William Sloane’s THE EDGE OF RUNNING WATER and Jessie Douglas Kerruish’s THE UNDYING MONSTER. On the more contemporary side, he finishes with two early works by one Stephen King.

arthannibalOne would guess that learning the secrets behind the gruesome special effects of HANNIBAL would make the show less freaky. Nope! If anything, Jesse McLean’s THE ART AND MAKING OF HANNIBAL: THE TELEVISION SERIES just makes it creepier. Seeing such freak-of-the-week stuff like the neck cello, corpse totem and the bee man (oh, Lord, not the trypophobic bee man!) up-close is entirely unsettling when it’s staring you in the face in four colors and large spreads vs. fleeting across the cathode rays of a mainstream-network show. Titan Books releases a slew of these behind-the-scenes volumes with a production quality closer to the coffee table than the “collector’s” fan magazine of yesteryear, but few seem to merit such curtain-peek treatment; HANNIBAL, however, is a series that actually deserves this treatment. Its top-class ghastliness is matched by intelligent scripts, crisp direction and delicious performances; McLean’s sleekly designed trade paperback mirrors the series’ credibility.

supernaturalGDTMy hot-and-cold reaction to the subject of THE SUPERNATURAL CINEMA OF GUILLERMO DEL TORO: CRITICAL ESSAYS can be summed up by the opening and closing lines of actor Doug Jones’ foreword: “Guillermo del Toro. A name that makes film fans buckle at the knee in reverence. … The man to whom I will forever be grateful for allowing me name to be associated with his in some of the most respected films in the history of cinema.” Geez, get a room! Del Toro is a serious talent, but he can do wrong; for starters, his running times show he doesn’t know how to quit while he’s ahead. And yet, I enjoyed reading about films I’m not particularly fond of in this John W. Morehead-edited collection from McFarland. It dives into issues of religious symbolism, childhood trauma, insect obsession and other recurring themes in movies great (PAN’S LABYRINTH), good (BLADE II), bad (HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY) and, um, PACIFIC RIM.

woodyallenR2RSelect films of Woody Allen can exude so much neuroses to make the unaccustomed viewer cringe in discomfort. No scene, however, matches the awkwardness of a section within WOODY ALLEN: REEL TO REAL, in which author Alex Sheremet exchanges emails with esteemed film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum over the latter’s negative remarks of Allen’s work in the past; it soon devolves into a war of words. “Wait,” you ask, “why is such a thing even included in a book?” Easy: Because REEL TO REAL is not a conventional text, but Take2 Publishing’s inaugural “DigiDialogue” experiment. In short, that’s a fancy term for “ebook,” but one that Sheremet vows will be updated periodically — not just as Allen makes new pictures (roughly one every year), but as readers converse with the author and one another on the films covered and opinions shared, as if an Internet forum were built-in. While the comments are not yet incredibly in depth in number (per the March 31 review copy I read), this undoubtedly will grow and be interesting for hardcore Allen fans to follow. Even without this feature, Sheremet’s insights on the films make for intelligent criticism; his chronologically arranged essays grow in length as Allen moves from “the early, funny ones” to “sitting at the grown-ups’ table.” Join the discourse! —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

Next Page »